The EU is launching new sanctions against Russia for the detention of the Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny. The foreign ministers of the EU countries agreed on Monday at a meeting in Brussels to begin the necessary preparations for the punitive measures, as confirmed by several diplomats.
The EU wants to impose sanctions on four Russian officials for the action against Navalny.
Entry bans and the freezing of funds would be imposed. Affected are the head of the investigation committee, the director of the prisons, the director of the National Guard and the attorney general.
“I expect a green light today at the political level for further sanctions against Russia, against people in the judiciary, in the police apparatus who are directly responsible for dealing with it,” said Russian oppositionist Alexej Navalny, Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg (ÖVP) said before the meeting with his EU counterparts in Brussels.
He does not believe that sanctions against Russia are “toothless”. If that were the case, Moscow would not respond with threats, Schallenberg told journalists. On the one hand they try to bring about a “change in behavior” with sanctions, on the other hand they send a “clear signal that we reject a measure, a policy”.
Political decision in principle planned
According to diplomats, the foreign ministers wanted to take a political decision in principle on new sanctions. Specifically, the punitive measures should only be worked out later. The EU wants to use its new sanctions regime to violate human rights for the first time, said Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde in Brussels. Those affected would be punished with entry bans and the freezing of their assets in the EU.
Regarding the controversial visit by the EU Foreign Affairs Representative Josep Borrell, Schallenberg said: “Basically, I believe that it was right to continue the dialogue and go to Moscow.” With a view to the expulsion of three EU diplomats during the visit, he sharply criticized Moscow. “This is not a way of dealing with partners with whom you have a close relationship, and that will certainly have consequences, also in terms of the sanctions I am in favor of.”
The supporters of the Kremlin critic have asked the EU not to shy away from sanctions against Russian oligarchs. He considers such punitive measures to be legally possible, said Navalny employee Leonid Volkov to journalists in Brussels. Without the oligarchs close to President Vladimir Putin, the “machinery of repression” in Russia would be inconceivable. And the oligarchs, in turn, benefited from it.
Navalny himself and the European Parliament had demanded that the EU also put oligarchs close to President Vladimir Putin on the sanctions list. However, this is considered unlikely. In Brussels it is pointed out that sanction decisions must withstand a challenge in court and that direct responsibility of oligarchs for the imprisonment of Navalny can hardly be proven.
MEPs welcomed the sanctions decision. “In any case, the new sanctions must also hit the billionaire oligarchs in Putin’s closest circle of supporters, otherwise they will have no effect,” said the SPÖ delegation leader Andreas Schieder. “ The behavior of the Russian leadership internally and externally cannot be justified by anything. A better future will succeed if we keep the communication channels open and thus also sanction the frequent crossing of red lines,” said ÖVP MEP Lukas Mandl.
Thomas Waitz, Member of the European Union for the Greens and co-chair of the European Green Party, said the sanctions were “just a little slap on the fingers” and would not impress Kremlin chief Vladimir Putin. “ The EU must draw tough conclusions and withdraw from the Nord Stream 2 pipeline,” he demanded. (Apa, dpa, afp)
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